Noisy PGA Tour Leaderboards Thing of the Past

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2005, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)Charles Howell III had a lot to learn when he first came out on the PGA Tour.
He didn't know many of the courses. He wasn't sure where to stay. And inside the ropes, he had to adjust to this strange sound he never heard on any other golf circuit.
'People talk about how they don't pay attention to leaderboards? They're lying,' Howell once said. 'Because when these leaderboards turn over out here, it sounds like machine gun fire. If you have a leaderboard right beside you, you're ducking your first year on tour, because you have no idea what that noise is.'
Anyone who has ever been to a PGA Tour event knows exactly what Howell is talking about.
While the tour is equipped with satellite technology and lasers to chart every shot of every player, it keeps score on the golf course with electronic leaderboards that are about as up-to-date as Pac-Man.
'When you're hitting a shot, you hear that rat-tat-tat,' Mark Lye said. 'Those things have always been the worst.'
They might be a thing of the past - finally.
First introduced on the PGA Tour at the 1988 Westchester Classic, the tour plans to replace the leaderboards with state-of-the-art equipment that not only will tell who is leading, but show how far someone hits his drive or the distance his ball lands from the pin.
And players will only be able to see them, not hear them.
'Think of it more as a computer monitor than what you're seeing out there today,' said Steve Evans, vice president of information systems for the PGA Tour.
What the tour has now is a large board, powered by a golf cart battery. The board has 5,130 cubes that are black and fluorescent yellow, and those cubes flip over to spell out names and scores and what hole a player is on.
The board changes every 10 seconds or so.
'It's not a normal sound,' said Lye, who battled the boards as much as any player on tour. 'I would unplug them and shut down the whole system. They told me they were going to fine me if I kept doing it, so I had to stop. But it got to where I had to time when it was going to change so it didn't get me in the middle of my stroke.'
When he joined the Champions Tour, that annoying, teeth-gritting sound was there to greet him.
'We can talk from here to China on a cell phone,' said Lye, who works as an analyst for The Golf Channel. 'We ought to be able to get a scoreboard that's not so loud.'
Noise isn't the only problem.
Depending on the radio frequency, the scoreboards could be as many as 30 minutes behind. That could make a big difference to a player wondering if he needs to go for the green on a par 5 late in the tournament.
And just like any piece of machinery, it can malfunction. There are times when not all the cubes will switch to yellow, making the scores look like something they're not.
Bob Estes was tied for the lead with Jeff Maggert in the 1995 Western Open, both of them at 8-under par. But Estes says a couple of yellow cubes didn't flip over on Maggert's score, and a quick glance made it look like Maggert was 9 under.
'I should have known what a 9 normally looks like on a scoreboard,' Estes said. 'But the pixel lights were out. I thought I was tied for the lead and I had to play a little more aggressively, maybe get a birdie on the last three holes.'
He went at the pin, bounced left off the green and into a hazard to take double bogey.
'They really are annoying,' Estes said.
Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, said plans to update the electronic scoreboard were shelved temporarily when money was devoted to the Shotlink scoring system.
He said the tour likely would start testing new boards over the next two years, and his hope is that new boards will be available for the 2007 season. The idea is to link the leaderboard in part with Shotlink, ultimately giving fans all the information available to them on the Internet.
'The goal is to develop the best fan enhancement,' Hughes said.
There already has been some evidence, however so slight. At the Tour Championship last year, a mammoth screen erected down the 17th fairway showed clear, still images of the two players walking toward the green, their score and what place they were in.
Even the noisy boards now are capable of showing which player has hit the longest drive at a hole, or which was closest to the pin on a par 3.
Still, the tour has been slow to replace such outdated equipment.
'The budget was one factor, but the other thing was that technology was moving so fast, you didn't want to buy something one year and have it be outdated the next year,' said Don Wallace, director of tournament operations. 'And for what we do - in terms of transporting them to tournaments - this technology was good. It lasted almost 20 years.'
No matter the age or how loud the boards can be, the PGA Tour at least gives fans up-to-date information.
The tour now has to be careful not to deliver too much information.
Evans said a new leaderboard would be capable of delivering the same information as Shotlink, along with video clips of someone making a key birdie. But the PGA Tour doesn't want a course like Riviera to turn into a movie theater, either.
'It will have a much more higher resolution display, much more like boards you'd see in the stadium,' Evans said. 'It will be capable of showing full graphics, player images, head shots. We're probably going to have some be video capable, but I don't think video is appropriate at every single location.'
The last thing someone needs is to be standing over a 6-foot par putt and hear the crowd erupt in cheers because it watched highlights of Phil Mickelson chipping in for birdie. Still, modern boards will be capable of letting fans know what's going on with more names, more glitz, more information.
'And it will be real quiet,' Wallace said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”